Two for the road ~

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you ~

Don’t you love this photo? When we were married nine years ago, it was on the front of our wedding announcement with the heading “Let the Adventure Begin”.

This couple looks like people I’d like to hang out with.  Swap stories and share a laugh or two over a bottle of pretty good wine.  To me, they look like perfect partners in crime and in life.  Whether you are a duo on the Road to Zanzibar or the Road of Life, traveling with a partner can be tricky business.  One of the things I love about my hubby is that we travel well together.  I’m very grateful for that, but since we’re about to ramp up for our own Two For the Road adventures, I got to thinking about what makes a really good team.    Basically, at least for me, it comes down to just a few very important traits.

Here’s what came out tops on my list ~

Everybody needs a Yes Man, a partner who says Hell Yes or Why Not to whatever crazy idea you come up with.  Someone who is all in for a good time or an adventure and doesn’t sweat the details.  When you say “Just shut up and get in the car.”  That’s exactly what they do.  They might even roll down the window and hang their head out to feel the breeze.  Oh, wait.  That’s the dog.   He’s always ready to jump in the car.

Someone who is calm during your storm.  Like the time a few years ago when Amtrak cancelled our train with no warning – just taped up a hand printed paper sign “No Train Today”.  No train?  Really?  I’m on a five day vacation!  I need the train TODAY!   That’s when you need a partner who stands back calmly while you throw an earth-shattering-all out-but-still-lady-like-bitch fit after the Amtrak service person says, “Ok. So, do you want to cancel now or do you want to come back tomorrow?”  and, then said partner calmly steps up, takes your arm, and says “Let’s go find a Happy Hour and come back in the morning”.  Happy Hour?  Ok.  I love Happy Hour.

The guy in the rose colored glasses.  On those days when you are less than your shining best – let’s just call it major-ass cranky-pants and your partner looks over and says  “Have I told you today how crazy I am about you?”  Whoa!  Hello Dolly! Just the right words at the right time.  Well, rightbackattcha Big Boy.

A comedian and a straight man.  You know, like George and Gracie, Lucy and Ricky, Will and Grace.  Every great comedy duo has an instigator, the comedian with the cockeyed point of view and the straight man who makes it all seem funny.  They are a finely oiled machine.  They play off each other.  They give as good as they get.  They make each other laugh.

And, finally, you’ve gotta be a switch hitter.    A great partnership works when you can switch roles easily and as often as required.  When you’re at the end of your rope – he’s just getting his strength.  When he’s too pooped to participate, you slow your frantic pace and stop to smell the roses.  It’s a balancing act and it works best when each person is tuned in to the other, to the moment, to the goal at hand and to the bigger picture.

And so, nine years later, I say – Let The Adventure Continue.  We’re two for the road and I cannot wait to see where the road will lead us.

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something we must always remember.  We are braver than we believe, stronger than we seem and smarter than we think.  But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… we’ll always be together.”  Christopher Robin

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When Fear Slithers in ~

Ok, I admit it, there’s a reason why my retirement dreaming has been more in the direction of Alsace Lorraine than some place in the Amazon.  One word – SNAKES.  Oh yes. I have a big time, full on, beyond all reason, fear of snakes.  Any kind, and size is not a factor.  I know it makes no sense.  I’m an educated and generally intelligent woman but this is one of those totally irrational things and, let me just say, this kind of REALLY BIG FEAR is not what you want to take with you when you become a citizen of the world.

Snake Charmers

As a kid in Canada, I grew up spending summers at our cottage on Balsam Lake and there were snakes but I don’t remember worrying about them.  We did all the crazy kid stuff and sometimes we’d see one.  No big deal.  But, sometime between those carefree summers at the lake and high school in Southern California, this crazy fear slithered into my mind and has grown into a green eyed monster.  In high school, I  paper clipped the pages of my biology book together so I wouldn’t touch the snake pictures.  True story.  But wait, it gets worse.  In 1996 I took a trip to Belize and Guatemala.  I was fearful of the jungle and what was lurking there, but I thought the best way to overcome my fear was to face it head on.  Right!  We were in Tikal hiking through the jungle to climb the Mayan pyramids.   It was dense and humid and we could hear the howler monkeys and parrots up in the trees.  I was pretty sure there was a big ole snake up there too, but we didn’t see any.   When we met a local guide/professor, I mentioned my fear of snakes.  He said “Don’t worry about snakes, they’re more afraid of you than you are of them”.  Ha!  Wrong-o!  And, then he said “Besides, you can smell them.  They have a very distinct and not pleasant smell.”  Really?  I did not know this.  I made it through the day and enjoyed every minute of this truly amazing experience.

Yoo Whoo! Any snakes down there?

But, the next morning, my friend Don and I decided to take an early walk.  We followed a dirt road just outside of the park.  We walked for a couple of miles and every now and then we would see a large sign, in Spanish, that said “Danger Venomous Reptiles”.  Okay, a little concern started to creep in.  My friend said it was just to keep tourists out.  Hmmm.  Wouldn’t it be in English too?  We kept on going, but then without warning – a really bad smell.  I lost all reason and control.  I screamed SNAKE! then turned around and ran as fast as I could in the other direction leaving my walking companion standing there shaking with laughter.  I was terrified obviously, since I still remember it like it was yesterday.   It’s embarrassing to say the least, but truth be told, snakes represent all the ways that I let fear stop me from living life full out.  And there are plenty of them.  I won’t bore you with the list.

How do you suddenly become brave at 63 1/2?  I’m not sure really, but I’d like to figure it out.  Actually, I’d settle for braver.   I’ll probably never jump out of an airplane and I’m OK with that.  But, there are a whole bunch of places in this world that are really worth experiencing and I’m not sure I can go because there might be snakes?   Am I really saying that?  It sounds crazy even to me, but it’s kinda true.  For now.

All I know is that life is short and I want to live every minute with all the gusto I can manage and so, somehow, the fear has to go.  You can’t pack it in the rollie.  It takes up way too much space and it definitely weighs you down.

Oh, and by the way.  Snakes don’t smell.  He was just messing with me.

Mon Dieu, nous sommes soignants maison ~

“It is my second week in Escamps, a cluster of medieval farms and impossibly narrow roads in southwest France, a region known as The Lot, in the Midi-Pyrénées. There are no shops in this hamlet, only a church, an ancient cemetery, and a tiny bibliothèque whose librarian, Monsieur Dubillion, I nearly ran over in my tiny rented Renault. Still, word of my housesitting at Sophie Dumont’s farm, Piepalat, has preceded me, and on my daily walks residents often invite me for a cup of espresso or a slice of their goat cheese. In the language I learned from my French mother, I chat with farmers and masons whose ancestors have lived here for centuries.”

So wrote Judith Reitman, an American from North Carolina, in an article I stumbled on several years ago in AARP Magazine.  Judith wasn’t retired but she was looking for adventure on the cheap.  She found it big time, through an ad in HouseCarers.com.  In return for taking care of Sophie’s four cats – Lulu, Bijoux, Chouchou and Mia (which involved fresh cooked fish twice a day), feeding the chickens, and a little garden work, Judith got to stay practically free in a 17the century limestone farmhouse.  From that first experience, Judith was hooked.   I was hooked too.  And I’ve circled back to this idea time and again.  Finally, the time is right to give it a go ourselves and I am very excited.

First, the good news.   Especially where our beloved pets are concerned, there are more people than ever looking for someone to stay in their home while they are away.  This can be from one week to as long as a year or two.   You can find house sits world-wide – from farms to city apartments to luxury vacation homes and even on yachts!  Then, the bad news.  The word is out on house sitting and the competition can be fierce for the prime locations.  Flexibility is key, and you might be staying in your dream location in the off season.  Still…

Here’s an opportunity I found on TrustedHousesitters.com.  Two years in Castello Branco, Portugal.  Two cats, 11 chickens, vegetable garden.  Oh, baby!   

It helps to have house sitting experience and references, SO – if you or anyone you know is looking for someone to take care of the homestead, walk the dog, pet the kitties and water the plants while you’re out of town – let me know.  I am eager to dive in and get our feet wet.

The three most popular sites I’ve seen are HouseCarers.com, TrustedHousesitters.com and Housesittersinternational.com.   To get the ball rolling, I’ve decided to sign up with with a couple of agencies.  Trusted House Sitters and HouseSitMexico.   For less than $60/year to join, I think it’s a great way to test the water before we go half way around the world.  So, I’m working up our perfect profile and giving it a whirl.  We can do this!  In fact, a quick check this week on the HouseCarers.com for house sit openings in Washington State and bingo – I wanted to vacation on Bainbridge Island and here it is.  Click on the link and tell me, who would not be happy to spend two weeks in this gorgeous place and snuggle up with these two beautiful kitties.  One for Les and one for me.  Purrrfect!  (sorry).

If you are as intrigued by this idea as I was, here are a couple more links to check out :

Caretaker Gazette – Yep, a Newsletter for and about house sitting.

This UK couple have taken the house-sitter lifestyle to a new level – They have their own website and provide a lot of good info on avoiding the inevitable pitfalls.